Haw Par Villa

Weather :

Timings : Park: 9:00 AM - 10:00 PM, Last entry at 9:30 PM Ten Courts of Hell: 9:00 AM - 9:30 PM, Last entry at 9:15 PM

Time Required : 2-3 hours

Entry Fee : No Entry Fee

Haw Par Villa, Singapore Overview

Formerly known as the Tiger Balm Garden, Haw Par Villa is an Asian culture theme park and Singapore's largest outdoor art gallery, located along the Pasir Panjang Road. Claimed to be the last of its kind in the world, this repository of Asian folklore and myths is famous for depicting the "Ten Courts of Hell" from Chinese folklore.

Apart from the main attraction, Haw Par Villa is home to over 1000 statues and 150 giant dioramas showcasing scenes from Chinese mythology, illustrations and legends of Confucianism. The iconic red brick road, ascending through a majestic entrance archway, weaves through Chinese classics such as the Eight Immortals and Journey to the West. Statues of leopards, dragons and gigantic gorillas lurk in the corners, while the Guardians of the Underworld greets ones on entering the Ten Courts of Hell. Those interested in uncovering the underlying legends and stories of Haw Par Villa should opt for the tours provided by the garden.

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Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa
Haw Par Villa

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Haw Par Villa Tours

1. Find your Tao in the Haw Par Villa - The Tiger Balm Garden Story
The Haw Par Villa has over a thousand statues with a story behind each of them. Dive in the engrossing treasure trove of Asian philosophy and cultural heritage, along with enthralling stories behind the park while “finding your Tao in the Haw Par Villa”.
Timings: 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM,
You are to reach at least 15 minutes before the tour commences for registration and payment purposes.
Cost:
Adults: SGD 10,
Children (7 - 12 years old): SGD 5,

2. Journey to Hell - Death and the Afterlife in Haw Par Villa
If you are looking for a daring adventure, step into the Haw Par Villa after dusk envelopes the sky and darkness falls over the park. On this tour, you shall be told about how the Boon family confronted death. Experience the Ten Courts of Hell after dark which has a surreal charm to it altogether.
Timings: 6:30 PM - 8:30 PM,
Cost:
Adults: SGD 18,
Children (7 - 12 years old): SGD 9,
Students (matriculation card is required for verification): SGD 15

Haw Par Villa Park Map
Haw Par Villa Park Map
Source

Origin of Haw Par Villa

The Haw Par Villa was built in 1937. The idea of this unique cultural park was conceived by a rich philanthropist Aw Boon Haw. He had constructed this park for his beloved brother Aw Boon Par. The Haw Par Villa at the time of its inception was called “Tiger Balm Garden” after the famous ointment that was created by their father.

Aw Boon Haw had a great affinity for Chinese culture and mythology which is reflected in the original fixtures. Every fixture was sculpted under his strict supervision. Later, when the war broke, Aw Boon Haw left Singapore with his family and fled to Yangon (modern-day Rangoon). During those days, the park was used as an observation point for the Japanese Army. 

After the war settled, the whole family returned to Singapore and started rebuilding the park. This development took shape of an ongoing process that started in the 1940s and lasted till 1970s. During this phase, many contributions were made by the family members of Aw Boon Haw. His son, Aw Cheng Chye who was fond of travelling expanded the dioramas. He added international corners to the park paying respect to the different cultures he came across during his travels.

In 1988, the Singapore Tourism took over the Tiger Balm Garden and renamed it “Haw Par Villa Dragon World.” “Haw” and “Par” in the park’s name are derived from the names of the two brothers meaning tiger and leopard respectively. Today, Haw Par Villa spans over a massive eight and a half hectare making it Singapore’s largest outdoor art gallery. 

The Ten Courts of Hell

A major attraction at the Haw Par Villa is the vivid and graphical depiction of the ten distinct courts of hell that one has to pass through as a punishment for their sins in the afterlife. It is a rendition of the Chinese folklore with many parents taking their children to visit the courts of hell as a lesson of remaining on the straight path without committing any sins. Entering the 10 courts of Hell is regarded to be a scary event. It is no wonder, therefore, that there is a huge notice board informing the visitors categorically about the purpose of the courts. 
  • The entire premise is darkened with life-sized exhibits of the dead and departed people who are seen reclining or sitting on the hilltops and on the trees and shrubs placed around the area.
  • One encounters the figure of Hu Fa Shi Zhe immediately on entering the first court. The green face with large, lantern-like eyes seems all-seeing. He is in control of the ghosts and is responsible for upholding the laws of the courts.
  • The guardians of the underworld in the form of horse face and ox head figures are found accompanying the dead. It is a part of Chinese mythology that has been depicted to perfection in the courts.
  • One has to walk in the dark tunnel-like cavern and pass through each showcasing weird and gruesome statues along with pictorial representations of the punishments meted out to the sinners.
  • There are signboards in each court that describes the acts of punishment and explains the evil deed that warrants such a horrific penalty. It is definitely a scary passage that is sure to bring most of the people to the straight path of virtue and shun the vices. 
Such is the effect on the psyche of the tourists that almost all of them are relieved to pass through the ten courts quickly and embrace the sunlight at the end of the tunnel. 

Ten Courts of Hell at Haw Par Villa
Ten Courts of Hell is the most popular exhibit at Haw Par Villa (Source)

The Dioramas at Haw Par Villa

Haw Par Villa is famous for displays of dioramas i.e. three-dimensional statues and models that appear almost life-like. The Villa also exhibits over 1000 statues and 150 three dimensional statues depicting mythological scenes from the Chinese folklore. One of the largest dioramas showcases the legend of the Madam white snake, a popular story in China’s folk tales. A life-sized diorama displays an older woman breastfeeding a young girl. This signifies the importance of filial love and respect. The legend of the eight immortals is also depicted via the dioramas. 

Haw Par Villa Singapore
One of the many dioramas scattered around Haw Par Villa (Source)

How to Reach Haw Par Villa

By MRT: Alight at the Haw Par Villa MRT Station and take the Exit A. It is a one-minute walk from the station to the theme park.

By Bus: 
Buses 10, 30, 30E, 51, 143, 188, and 200 arrive at the bus interchange on Pasir Panjang Road. Get on any one of these buses to reach the Haw Par Villa within one minute from the bus stop.

Two-wheeler and four-wheeler parking is available at Haw Par Villa, Westway Shopping Mall and Science Park.

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